Machinery Health Check

Machinery Health Check

All espresso machinery needs a little loving care, especially if it has been idle for a period of time (yes lockdown we’re looking at you). Right now is probably a good moment to think about the health of your espresso machinery ahead of what we all hope to be a busy season. A little fine tuning now could take all the stress out of those moments of high demand down the line. To help you out we have listed some of the parts that are most likely to need replacing to keep your equipment running smoothly.

Some things to think about:

Your machine will benefit from a minor service every three or four months. You’ll need to consider:
1. Replacing group gaskets (preferably with silicone alternatives and not the standard rubber ones).
2. Replacing shower screens (a good opportunity to upgrade to VST or IMS screens if you don’t already have them).
3. Testing group flow rates and temp.
4. Testing group head and boiler water quality.

On the grinder front, if you’re finding you’re continually having to adjust your settings finer from week to week and the coffee is tasting “flat”, then you probably need to look at your burrs. Your grinder’s burrs should be replaced for every 250-300kgs of coffee you get through, so the timeframe can vary from 3 to 12 months depending on how busy your cafe has been. Fresh burrs will result in quicker grind times and more flavorful extractions which is win/win for baristas and customers alike.

Your tools for a major service. Credit: Chad Aden Whitby @thestreetbarista
Some of these are potentially left to a good coffee machine technician and Bob from Caffeine Fix gets our vote in this regard but some of these tasks can be done yourself if you’re brave enough. Bob can be reached on 0844 332 1202.

Now it’s time for a major service. This involves doing everything you did for the minor service, but also:
1. Rebuilding steam and water tap assemblies.
2. Replacing anti-suction valves.
3. Cleaning boiler level probes.
4. Removing body panels and vacuuming/cleaning any dust that’s built up.

By this point, you’re already on your second six-month service, so you should be getting the hang of it. In addition to your major service, you should be doing the following:
1. Replacing your pressure safety valve.
2. Replacing the waste pipe (if needed).
3. Replacing or servicing your non-return valve.
4. Descale of the boiler/s and element/s. (Arguably the most important one to consider, as element performance can make or break efficiency both in dealing with a rush but also reducing one’s energy costs, so the cost vs benefit of this step is something to seriously consider).

Some items have a specific lifetime that’s unrelated to how often you service the machine. Other items might last forever, or they might need regular replacement, depending on the conditions of use. A café with poor water quality, for example, might have to change the filters and descale their machine twice a year. A café with great water, on the other hand, might only need to do this every two years.
The things you need to be careful with are:
• Changing of water filters.
• Replacement of water pump.
• Replacement of switches and solenoids (electro valves).
• Replacement of pressure regulating valve.
• Replacement of elements.
• Replacement of worn down bells on group heads.
• Changing or resetting pressure gauges.

Make sure you’re aware of the lifetime of these items (it’s always best to get the advice of a professional on this), and keep an eye on their condition to avoid unwanted breakdowns, damage to your machine, or decreasing coffee quality.

Understandably all this maintenance feels like a lot of effort and espresso machine maintenance can be time-consuming or even annoying but it is necessary to ensure your espresso machine continues producing delicious coffee round the clock.

We recommend scheduling services in your calendar so the months don’t slip by without you realizing. Be pre-emptive when it comes to replacing parts since it’s better to spend a little more than have to close for repairs. And remember to always give your espresso machine the love it needs and deserves.